DORCHESTER -- Every year, students in grades four through six at St. Brendan School in Dorchester are invited to partake in a long standing tradition: the school's Oratory Contest.
"Every year we have many, many students who volunteer to make a public proclamation of their choosing to the entire school community, as well as to the larger community," explained Maura Burke, principal at St. Brendan's School.
According to Burke, the students themselves choose a passage, poem or speech delivered by a famous person. They then deliver their address while professional judges, families and the entire school attend the event. Prizes are awarded to the three best orators.
"This is without a doubt my favorite event of the year," Burke said. "The speeches span so many interests -- some are poems, others speeches, others excerpts of books -- but they inspire so many emotions for the listener."
This is but one tradition at St. Brendan's School, Burke said, adding that traditions are very important to the neighborhood school.
As the only independent parish school remaining in Dorchester, Burke believes that her school's "small intimate setting" allows teachers to provide more individualized attention to each student. She also noted that most of the school's population -- roughly 85 percent -- live in the area around the school.
"We are truly a neighborhood parish school," said Burke. "In fact, some of our current students are the grandchildren of the first graduating class!"
The close-knit sense of community allows the school to partake in many school-wide events, she said. Burke cited the school-wide "This Week in History" event, where this past February each grade researched an aspect of history -- which varied from biographies, Marian Devotion and Groundhog Day to the abolition of slavery -- and presented their topic to the school community.
However, Burke was quick to point out that, although the school may be steeped in tradition, it also embraces the present and works to empower children to succeed in the future.
Assistant principal Mary Goslin agreed. She noted that the school communicates with families via Class DoJo -- an online service that connects the school with families via email.
"We have found that working parents really appreciate that," Goslin said.
She noted that each class is equipped with Chromebooks, which have been "a great success."
The school also encourages teachers to continue their professional development by providing bi-monthly professional development sessions in the school.
"This way we remain on the cutting edge of teaching styles," Goslin said.
"Our teaching staff here is so very special," added Burke. "The light of Christ is so evident in the teachers and staff here. It is a very authentic faith they share with their students."